We're almost free... of political limbo

An end to this extended election saga draws near and like many of you; we are also looking forward to closure on this state of limbo in which we unwillingly find ourselves.

With the ongoing social media showdown between the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) and Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.), the Courthouse protests organised by the Samoa Solidarity International Group (S.S.I.G.), and the competition between politicians to see who has the best news sound byte; it’s little wonder that the country is collectively rolling their eyes and want it all to be over.

There seem to be three separate realms of reality in Samoa right now. The first one is the H.R.P.P’s world, where they believe there will be a second, fresh election. In this reality, preparations for next week’s election are underway including training for election officials, a declaration of public holidays and special polling booths.

The second reality belongs to F.A.S.T., where they are certain there won’t be a second election so they are focusing on their legal challenges including the electoral petitions. In this world, the Supreme Court is God and prayers are fervently being prayed for an answer to the madness occurring in other realms. 

And the third world reality is where everyone else in Samoa resides. Those who are fed up with the political shenanigans, lobbying and press coverage of the same faces and same rhetoric. 

Those in this realm harbor their own hopes and dreams for our country’s political future, but they are also burdened with their real world responsibilities and decisions. 

In what way you ask? Well, if you’re a businessperson, you are suddenly finding yourself wondering how you are going to pay for an extra two days of public holiday. 

If you’re a parent, you’re wondering if you’ve budgeted to have your children home from school for an extra two days. If you’re a bus driver or owner of a bus, you’ve got two less days to make money next week. 

If you work in the Government, well, that’s fine you get paid no matter what and unless you’ve been assigned to a role as an election official, you’ve got two extra days to do what you like.

Unfortunately this newspaper is caught in the middle, doing our work to inform and investigate these unprecedented developments, providing other news that caters to a nation of readers who are clearly showing signs of exhaustion, while also suffering from a minor case of “what now?!”

The next few days will be an eternity for political parties.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Friday in relation to the constitutionality of the Head of State’s decision to void the April 9 Election and call for a fresh election on May 21.

As detailed on the front page story of today's Weekend Observer, deliberations went for most of the day on Friday, with the Chief Justice and Justices Vui Clarence Nelson and Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren listening to the political parties' legal representatives try to win them over.

Representing F.A.S.T., Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu argued that only when Parliament is unable to form a Government, then that is when the Head of State can be absolutely certain that the only option left is to call an election. 

“My submission the certainty for His Highness to say we failed [to resolve the deadlock] can only be exercised when he actually knows. 

“And the only confirmation of failure of parliament to reach a majority will be by fact that parliament has no one that demands a majority but at least given reasonable time to allow that to happen, and that will happen because people will start jumping ships,” said Taulapapa. 

On behalf of the H.R.P.P., main counsel Aumua Ming Leung Wai put it to the bench that the Head of State has prerogative powers that disables the Court to judicially review his call for fresh elections. 

“We submit that the Constitution does not provide for every situation that arises, that is what we are seeing now with these unprecedented events,” he said. 

“That is why it’s necessary that the Head of State should have prerogative powers exactly for these types of situations."

Compelling stuff from all sides. 

Meanwhile, outside of the courtroom, the two leaders of Samoa’s main political parties, Fiame Naomi Mataafa and Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi are still at each other's throats about who should be leader of the nation for the next five years. 

Fiame told this newspaper on Thursday that Tuilaepa was “living in a dream world” if he believed that an order for a 21 May election by the Head of State could not be struck down by the Supreme Court. 

“It won’t be legal [to proceed with an election],” she said. 

“If the court cases go our way then he should respect the rule of law.” 

We can agree with her sentiment to respect the rule of law, although the question then arises that if the Supreme Court decides to approve of the call to have a fresh election, will she stand firm on her appeal to respect the rule of law? 

Tuilaepa, on the other hand, has shown full confidence that the second election will go ahead, telling viewers during his weekly TV3 interview that it won’t be stopped. 

“The [fresh] election will happen. It won’t be stopped because the decision has been made,” said Tuilaepa. 

“The elections will push through while the Judiciary has also made their decision to continue with the cases for the records of the Government.” 

From where we stand, the “records of the Government” is a pretty big deal, since the Judiciary will decide on the legality of calling a second election.

We assume the Prime Minister knows that the Chief Justice and the other two Justices are currently deliberating over whether the Head of State's decision, which he fully supports, is constitutional.

The Prime Minister’s confidence leads us to suspect that he might have another ace up his sleeve, to be revealed next week perhaps?

It beggars belief that he would truly push through with a fresh election IF the Supreme Court rules against the H.O.S. decision.    

But then again, we’ve seen far greater wonders in the last few weeks than we ever imagined we would this year.

The Prime Minister seems single-minded about the fact that a fresh election will take place. From his recent TV3 comments, it certainly seems as if it is the only way he would ever concede defeat and resign himself, and his party, to the Opposition bench.

“And if the results show that we lose, then we will leave happy and thankful to God that the choice of the people who own this Government, voters, that one Party will stand in the office while the other takes opposition," said Tuilaepa. 

“If it is us that are chosen to oppose the Government, we will be happy to do so.” 

Well, the country shall find out on Monday, May 17, on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. 

Whichever way the Supreme Court rules, we truly hope the political parties will accept them and allow this country to move forward.

 

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